Frequently I meet people that say “I know nothing about wine.” This is often said with a lightly ashamed undertone when the wine list is shown to a person, but is then quickly shifted to a table companion, who is said to be the resident expert. Although understandable, this is totally unnecessary!
To boost your confidence in wine and to avoid anxiety having to drink, taste or choose wine, you should keep yourself to some basic rules. I will provide a number of tips which will not only keep you out of trouble, but will even make an impression at your table. If you want to be a wine connoisseur or at least appear like one, then it may be wise to take some wine etiquette in mind too.
Read this article on how to drink wine and you will have no wine fears any more. If you are on a first date, then you are welcome to read my tips to make an impression with wine here.
We have all heard it before. There are some people, professional tasters mostly, who slurp the wine, but be aware that this is for tasting only. By slurping, the wine may roll through your mouth and you will be able to taste the wine better. However, just remember that this is only reserved for professional wine tasters. You and me, amateur wine tasters, do not need to slurp.
A frequently asked question and also very important, is how you hold your glass. A wine glass, consisting of foot, stem and bowl, is always held by its stem. The reason for this is that if you hold it by its bowl, the contents of the glass will take over the temperature of your warm hands, which should not be happening. Moreover, it is annoying to see fingerprints all over your glass.
Another advantage of lifting the glass at the stem is that it is easier to keep your wine well against the light, so that you can check its colour. Often the colour of the wine tells you its strength in taste.
As with food, never start drinking if the others have not yet done this. It is far better to toast to everybody before the first sip can be taken.
At a dinner it is a must that before you sip from your glass, you also always have to wipe your mouth with a napkin. The reason? Like fingerprints, the prints of your mouth on a glass do not look very inviting.
Are you thirsty, do not think it is justified to empty your wine glass in one gulp. In the case of lemonade you can, but with wine this is really unacceptable. It is customary to sip your wine and set down your glass after every sip. Besides the fact that wine does not quench the thirst, it is perfectly ok to drink water separately to the wine.
When is a wine good?
Is any wine good for you if it is expensive? Not necessarily. The quality will be good, but your taste might not match with it. Personally, I have this with St. Emillions and Margaux, which really are quality wines, but I just do not like their tastes.
There are very tasty wines that cost almost nothing, and expensive wines that are not to your liking. The price says little. It’s all about the taste, your taste. Thus, you do not need to be embarrassed not to like a wine only because it is high priced.
If we take a sip, then swallow and when the taste is immediately gone from your mouth, then it’s not a good wine. If the taste of the wine, after swallowing, remains in your mouth for a few seconds, then you can be sure that it is a quality wine.
You should never consume undrinkable wine. Not even out of courtesy. Bad wine we disapprove, we spit out, or we throw away. In a restaurant you should immediately order another bottle, which should be free.
Wine should not only taste good, it should also smell good. Most taste receptors do not sit in the mouth but in the nose; the smell also determines the flavour. If you pour wine and it does not smell, then it is probably not a quality wine. If a wine smells like flowers, cherries or fruit, then we’re good.
Handy tips to bear in mind
Rolling wine in the glass
Rolling should be done with a circular motion of the wrist to revolve the wine in the glass. That’s important, because it will free the flavour. The fragrances will assimilate with oxygen and consequently the aroma is easier to smell.
Take a sip. Do not immediately swallow, but keep the wine in your mouth. Pucker your lips and gently suck some air inside your mouth. Thus the wine will mix with air and will release the flavour in your mouth.
Never drink wine thoughtless. Good wine is a delicacy and the taste must be fully enjoyed. Swallow, enjoy and reminisce. Always. Mind you, you do not need to do this with closed eyes and folded hands like a priest, and not during the whole meal, but just know what you are drinking!
If you would like to know more details about how to taste wine then you can click here.
What exactly is cork?
“Cork” is not the bits of cork that might be floating in your glass. This does not matter much, as they do not influence the taste of the wine. We just fish them out with the back of our spoon.
No, ‘cork’ is an abnormality of the wine, caused by an infected cork, which you can smell. This is also the reason that in restaurants, the waiter will give you the cork to check its smell. It is nevertheless difficult to spot because it comes in many guises. Sometimes very light, really only suspect; sometimes you can smell it from a meter away. You should not drink a wine with cork taint. In a restaurant they should give you a new bottle for free.
For the average wine the harvest year is not really relevant, because even in lesser vintages the wine is fine. Nevertheless, it is advisable to check the age of the wine to remember for later to pick your favourite year out of many vintages.
Wine survival tip
Before you are pouring the wine to your guests, give them a little bit of information about it. You can usually find it on the back label of the bottle. Always try to provide a fascinating piece of info. Be creative and/or humorous in telling your friends. Tell them that on a good day, you can give them the size of the shoes of the people who plucked the grapes (haha!). You’ll see that everyone is intrigued and they will sit and smell and sip your wine choice which will reap widespread admiration.
Drinking a glass of good wine and savouring it is there for everybody. Bear in mind that at all times you are the best judge of a particular wine. It is you and your specific taste that count the most and not what everybody else thinks about it, whatever beautiful words they may use about it. Do not feel embarrassed when somebody can tell you the name and the vintage of a wine, just by tasting. Not many people I have met can do that!
If this article has whetted your appetite for wine, then find the lists of wine reviews of excellent Chardonnay by clicking the three images to the right hand side (for mobile users just under this text) under the heading World best Chardonnays for delivery to and chose your area.
Any questions or comments, please do not hesitate to ask and I will come back to you within 24 hours.